A former, two-term mayor of Purcellville, Ronald Masters, died in his Winchester home March 17. He was 77 years-old.
Masters, who was considered a tireless community servant, entered the public eye when he was elected to the Purcellville Town Council in the late 1970s.
He later served as mayor from 1982 to 1986, and then again from 1990 to 1994.
“Whenever we would go out on the town, it would be like pulling teeth with him to get him home because so many people wanted to talk to him about issues,” said his eldest son, Marc Masters, of Washington, D.C.
Masters is also survived by his two other sons, John, of Washington, D.C. and Michael, of Berryville. He is preceded in death by his wife Elizabeth and his daughter Jennifer.
Marc Masters described his father as a social person who frequently went out on the town to talk with residents about Purcellville’s issues. One of his first memories of his father’s time in office was when he accompanied him while campaigning door-to-door.
Though the town was home to just under 2,000 residents during Masters’ tenure, it struggled with the same growing pains it does today – an increase in development stressed the balance of its small town atmosphere. People moved to Purcellville for its small town feel, but that environment was slowly jeopardized by periodic growth, Marc Masters said.
“It could be kind of a heated issue, but he always sort of looked at it in a neutral point of view,” Marc Masters said.
“Ron anticipated the population growth in our Western Loudoun area and worked to get the town ready for it,” said David Milam, pastor at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Purcellville, during his eulogy. Masters was instrumental in setting up the Purcellville Urban Growth Area Management Plan, he said.
Milam said Masters was too progressive for his time, which is why he lost reelection in 1986. However, Masters decided to run again during the next election cycle because so many citizens asked him too, Marc Masters said. He did, and won.
Masters was very good at listening to his constituents and giving everybody a voice, taking all phone calls big and small.
“His patience and a listening ear. It was his biggest strength,” he said.
Masters taught his children to give themselves time to react to something, be very patient and tolerant – character traits he likely perfected in his professional life as a mechanical engineer for such companies as Westinghouse, Deco and Fairchild.
“Ron worked on things like the first stealth bomber and even helped make the black box that would go on the first space shuttle,” Milam said.
“Ron gave himself to young people, working with the students of Loudoun Valley and Loudoun County High Schools for an Annual Engineers Week, where kids could find out from him about the distinctions between mechanical, electrical and civil engineering and the like,” Milam said. “These community involvements would grow through his membership in Lions and Rotary to become a platform from which he would eventually run for Mayor of Purcellville.”
He received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Detroit-Mercy and a master’s degree in engineering from the University of Michigan. Masters also served in the Navy as a Construction Contract Administration Officer from 1959-1962. He was in the reserves until 1970. After his retirement, he taught engineering for 10 years at the Lord Fairfax Community College in Middletown, Va.
But engineering was more than just his career, it was his hobby, Marc Masters said. Masters once built an engine in the family’s basement and was constantly constructing things out of metal and machine parts.
In 2008, he and his wife were each honored with the Town of Purcellville Citizenship Award, which is dedicated to individuals who exemplify the highest quality of citizenship through their efforts to enhance the quality of life for residents.
Upon acceptance of his award, Masters said, “Purcellville is what it is because of you all. I wish I could give you all a plaque.”
Master’s memorial service was held March 23 at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Purcellville. Memorial donations may be sent to the Lord Fairfax Community College Educational Foundation Inc., 173 Skirmisher Lane, Middletown, Va., 22645.
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This article was first published by Hannah Hager on LoudounTimes.com.